Nepal Maoists prevail over army, UN gets fresh lease

A statement issued by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal's office late Monday, signed by both the premier and Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, said the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), the political agency of the UN, will continue to monitor the arms and combatants of the Nepal Army as well as the Maoists' People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The UNMIN, that began operation in Nepal from 2007, a year after the Maoists signed a peace pact with the ruling parties and ended a decade of armed insurrection, completes its current tenure Wednesday.

It has received six extensions as the peace negotiations ran into trouble and the Maoists and the government remained at loggerheads over the fate of nearly 20,000 PLA fighters.

The ruling parties had become increasingly critical of UNMIN, accusing it of being biased towards the Maoists and overstepping its mandate, accusations that have been rejected by the UN agency as unfounded.

Both the prime minister and his major ally, the Nepali Congress, had been talking of not extending UNMIN's tenure beyond Sep 15 if possible. Else, they favoured reducing its mandate.

Nepal's army had been seeking to be freed of UNMIN supervision with the army chief, Gen Chhatarman Singh Gurung, lobbying with the government.

However, the suggestion was fiercely opposed by the Maoists, who said the peace process would break down if UNMIN was asked to monitor their guerrilla army alone.
In an unprecedented move, the government and the Maoists sent separate letters to the UN, asking for different roles for UNMIN, making the world body as well as western diplomatic community exhort them to speak with one voice.

Hours before UNMIN's term ends, the meeting between the government and the Maoists finally ended in an agreement Monday to kickstart the flagging peace process from Friday and wrap it up by Jan 14.

For that, both sides have agreed to bring the PLA immediately under the special committee formed to rehabilitate the guerrillas.

However, it remains to be seen if the new agreement will be actually followed by the Maoists, who now have a long record of reneging on promises.
It also remains to be seen if it will enable the nation to get a new prime minister Sep 26 when Prachanda fights Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel for the post.
Seven earlier rounds of voting have failed to elect a new leader, mainly due to the caretaker prime minister's party and an ethnic front of four parties abstaining.

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